This article is part of the Media Monitoring Highlights of February, a monthly overview of the most significant results of our monitoring of traditional and new media in Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, and the United Kingdom.
Date of publication: 15 February 2019
Media Outlet: Daily Mail, conservative British tabloid
Author: Richard Littlejohn
Headline: “RICHARD LITTLEJOHN: She's not the same little girl who ran away - and that's what worries me”
Description of the anti-Muslim content: This is an opinion piece by Daily Mail columnist Richard Littlejohn. It discusses the case of Shamima Begum, a topic widely reported on in the UK in February. Begum left the UK in 2015 to join the Islamic State and recently fled Baghuz, Syria (the Islamic State’s last slice of territory) heavily pregnant, looking to return home to the UK. The case has sparked much debate, and now with a new-born son, Begum has been stripped of her British citizenship.
The article starts with Littlejohn 'predicting' what Ms Begum's future will look like in Britain, if she returns: “After being fast-tracked up the housing waiting list, she will move into a council flat with her new baby, claiming an assortment of benefits and reinventing herself as a ‘yuman rites’ activist.” He further predicts that “worst case scenario, she straps half a pound of Semtex under her burka and detonates it on a Circle Line Tube train, blowing herself and dozens of other passengers to Kingdom Come.” Besides being extremely insensitive, this type of reporting is unnecessary and not based on any form of fact.
Littlejohn also repeatedly uses terminology that relate to the narrative of ‘Islamification’ in the UK. He refers to the "Islamic Republic of Tower Hamlets" and says it is a "hotbed of fundamentalism". He guesses there are "more burkas per square yard in Bethnal Green than there are in Bangladesh" and claims that "streets have been patrolled by Islamist vigilantes". Later on he also refers to a "creeping Islamification" happening in Britain. This language is extremely damaging, and the claims are unfounded. It plays into the narrative that the UK is being 'swarmed' by Muslims and that their aim is to 'take over'.
Myth debunked: The myth of ‘Islamification’ in Britain is perpetuated throughout this article. ‘Islamification’, also known as ‘Islamisation’, is a theory that refers to “society's conversion to the religion of Islam”. It is often used when talking about Muslim communities, mostly from immigrant backgrounds, taking over indigenous cultures. In the context of the UK, ‘Islamification’ is oftentimes discussed along with supposed ‘Muslim no-go areas’ and the invasion of Sharia law into British policy. Littlejohn plays into this narrative by referring to Tower Hamlets as an “Islamic Republic”, and claiming that the streets of the borough are patrolled by “Islamists vigilantes” who accost any woman who is not dressed modestly. Moreover, Littlejohn directly refers to “creeping Islamification”; further playing into the narrative that this ‘Islamification’ is extremely frightening and happening without us being fully aware.
Tower Hamlets is a diverse borough home to the largest Bangladeshi population in the UK, making up 32% of the borough population. 38% of Tower Hamlet residents are Muslim, which makes it the highest proportion in the UK. 30% of the borough’s population identifies as Christian. These statistics in no way equate Tower Hamlets to an “Islamic Republic”; a term with negative connotations.
‘Islamification’ is based on the idea that Islam does not belong in Europe, and that only till very recently, it was completely foreign in Europe. This is false: the first mosque in the UK was built in 1899, and a Muslim community in the country has been present even before that. It is true that there has been an increase of Muslim people in the UK in recent years, especially with increased refugee movement; however, this does not equate to an ‘Islamification’ of the country. The theory of ‘Islamification’ is steeped in negativity, and is a classic case of scaremongering. Moreover, it is dangerous and can incite people to commit hate crimes. In recent research, it was found that 32% of people agreed with the false statement: ‘there are no go areas in Britain where sharia law dominates and non-Muslims cannot enter.’ With anti-Muslim hatred being ever present in the UK, articles such as this which push the ‘Islamification’ narrative are dangerous and can have harmful effects.
More to read: